HUGH THE GREAT!
- By William Nedved
- Photos Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Somehow, strange as it may seem to even the most casual of moviegoer, not everyone in the Western world knows that Mr. Hugh Jackman is our most shameless – and sensational – razzle-dazzle song and dance man.
Perhaps they missed his strapping cowboy Curly in the National Theatre of London production of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical Oklahoma! that occasionally plays on PBS Great Performances. Or maybe they never tuned in to when Jackman hosted the 57th Annual Tony Awards in 2003. Or when he emceed again the following year – winning Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for playing over-the-top cabaret songwriter and performer Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz – and then picked up a Primetime Emmy Award in 2005 for those very hosting duties. Not to mention yet another hosting stint at the Tony Awards in 2005, the Academy Awards in 2008, and then back to the Tony Awards in 2014.
Are you sitting down? There are more than a few people in this world who only know Jackman as Wolverine from the nine X-Men films. That’s right: just the buff, hairy superhero with the super-sharp nails from the Marvel movies. There are people who are completely unaware of his soaring vocals, effortless dancing and shameless crowd-pleasing antics.
Now stand up and step in line for what promises to be the greatest show on earth – or at least a wildly entertaining movie musical. (Better yet, just pre-book the tickets online for your favorite theater, it’s almost 2018, for Pete’s sake…)
On Christmas Day, 20th Century FOX will release The Greatest Showman starring Jackman as a singing and dancing P.T. Barnum. Yes, the same P.T. Barnum who founded the traveling show that became the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Barnum was also a politician and hoax-promoter, and is rumored to have coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
The Greatest Showman is directed by Jackman’s fellow Aussie Michael Gracey, a commercial director lauded for his cutting-edge visuals, which are apparent in the sequin-filled trailer for the film. The screenplay is by Jenny Bicks, a writer on HBO’s Sex and the City, with Bill Condon, who is often credited with resuscitating the movie musical with his deft script of John Kander and Frank Ebb’s stage show Chicago, that under the direction of Rob Marshall became Oscar’s Best Film of 2002.
Barnum’s long-suffering wife Charity is played by Michelle Williams, who was heartbreaking last year in Kenneth Lonergan’s movie melodrama Manchester By the Sea, and gained some musical theater cred playing Sally Bowles in the 2014 Broadway revival of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret.
The film also stars High School Musical and Hairspray hunk Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle and the could-not-be-more-hot-right-now Zendaya – from Disney Channel’s K.C. Undercover and last summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming – as his love interest Anne Wheeler. Rebecca Ferguson, known for The White Queen and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, plays Swedish opera star Jenny Lind, whom Barnum famously brought to America.
The Greatest Showman is a completely original movie musical – neither based on a Broadway show nor comprised of an existing catalogue of tunes in the “jukebox” style. The film showcases a new score from the acclaimed duo of Benj Paskey and Justin Paul, who wrote the lyrics to the Oscar-winning music of La La Land, and created the Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen (coming to Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre next fall.)
“The Greatest Showman” is in theaters December 25th.